CHENNAI: As much discomfort the rains caused in the last couple of days, water managers in the city would be hoping for more and intense spells of showers in the coming days as well, concerned as they are over the alarming dip in water storage in the city reservoirs.
On Sunday, the total storage level at the four reservoirs — Poondi, Sholavaram, Red Hills and Chembarambakkam — stood at a meagre 0.97 TMC, less than one-tenth of their total capacity. This is the lowest in over half a decade, show data from Chennai Metro Water. With no more water from Krishna river till it rained heavily enough to fill the Kandaleru reservoir, the immediate future does not look good.
With the absence of South West monsoon showers and a record hottest July in a decade that evaporated water in the reservoirs rapidly adding to the woes, the repercussions are seen all around us — thinly running taps, beelines for water tankers and increased sales of RO water and purifiers.
In a city that needs nearly 900 million litres of water a day, the residents are already facing the heat. The Chennai Metro Water currently supplies 600 million litres, that too on alternative days. In recent days, the alternate day promise is also trickling low and grimy, putting residents on the brink of near-scarcity.
“The water we get on alternative days is not really sufficient for our family of six,” says Mubarak Abdul Kader who resides in Adyar.
A few kilometres away, Sundari a resident of Taramani, sits around empty buckets, waiting for the 6 am to 8 am water supply every second day.
“Rainwater harvesting has been forgotten. Now we are repenting. If everyone had systematically done it over the years, we wouldn’t be strapped for water,” says Murali, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur who managed to save a few thousand litres of water by employing this method. This is just about the average weekly consumption by a family of five.
The next resort to waiting on taps is buying water off tankers, but even that has seen the price climb steeply this season. The average cost of 12,000 litres of water (single tank) as provided by private players has escalated from Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 to as high as Rs 2,500. And for some flats like Ravikumar’s in Alandur, it is a difficult deal as he has to wait for four days for even this water to arrive. Having been dependent on the erratic monsoons for decades to serve the over six million people in the city, technological alternatives like desalination projects are now offering immediate hope to the water managers here. The desal plants at Nemmeli and Minjur together pump out 200 of the 600 million litres of water supplies currently.
“We are looking at putting up a new desalination plant off the shores at Mahabalipuram with a capacity of 400 MLD (Million Litres/Day),” said an official with Metro Water. It can salvage the water scarcity the city is looking at, but it is now at a standstill until the funds come through.
Until then, the residents have little choice but to pray that the rains gods show some mercy.
What’s In Store Every July...
Total Capacity of all 4 Reservoirs - 11.05 TMC
2011 - 5.650 TMC | 2012 - 3.739 TMC | 2013 - 1.070 TMC | 2014 - 2.153 TMC | 2015 - 0.977 TMC